Australian Art Orchestra and Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Melbourne Festival

Water Pushes Sand

Experimental jazz meets the bold rhythms of the Sichuan Provence

A sound that was both reverential and forward thinking, true world music without the baggage of commercial labelling.

All About Jazz on The Wide Alley

Thrilling and daunting in equal measure. . . the AAO’s boldness of vision remains intact as it heads into its third decade.

The Age on Australian Art Orchestra

Sichuan is the Texas of China. It is from Sichuan that philosopher Lao Tzu, according to legend, mounted a water buffalo and rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Its music combines colours from rustic country folk, street songs, and the cacophony of gongs and cymbals. It is more like blues or early rock and roll than classical music. Even the opera is hard-core, featuring long stretches of voice and percussion that could be straight out of an avant-garde composition by Luciano Berio.

Composer Erik Griswold and the Australian Art Orchestra team up with all-star musicians and performers of Sichuan, China to create a colourful collage of voice, winds, piano and percussion. The ten-piece big band fuses Sichuan melodies and rhythms with modern jazz improvisation, face changing mask dance and projections created by brilliant video artist Scott Morrison, which evoke and abstract busy urban streetscapes. A wild intercultural celebration not to be missed.

Australian Art Orchestra

The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) is a portable orchestra for the new millennium. With an emphasis on improvisation, it explores the meeting points between disciplines and cultures, and imagines new musical forms to reflect the energy and diversity of contemporary Australia. Now in its 21st year and led by prolific composer, trumpeter and sound artist, Peter Knight, the Australian Art Orchestra features some of Australia’s most celebrated jazz musicians. It tours both locally and internationally with recent cities including Hong Kong, Toronto, Paris, London, Brisbane and Chennai. It has won numerous awards for its work including three Australian Jazz Bell awards (most recently in 2014), the 2014 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Excellence by an Organisation’, the 2013 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Performance of the Year’ and many others.



Join members of the AAO and Sichuan Ensemble to discuss their collaboration after each performance.



Explore musical life in Sichuan with percussionists Erik Griswold, Vanessa Tomlinson and Master Zhong Kaizhi.


Composition and Piano Erik Griswold
Trumpet, Artistic Director Peter Knight
Drums and Percussion Vanessa Tomlinson
Saxophone Tim O'Dwyer
Double Bass Sam Pankurst

Water Pushes Sand 水推沙

Zheng Sheng Li  郑胜利
Shi Lei  石磊
Zhou Yu 周宇
Zhou Taotao 周桃桃
Zhong Kaizhi 钟开志